Discover the Largest Forest in Montana (And What Lives Within It)

Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest
© Emily Kerns/

Written by Jeremiah Wright

Updated: May 30, 2023

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Montana is home to almost 20 million acres of forests, mountains, rivers, and other natural areas. These forests provide the state with timber, minerals, and grazing lands. It also provides a habitat for many land animals, birds, and freshwater fishes.

Let’s discover the largest forest in Montana and the amazing wildlife that thrives in it.

The Largest Forest in Montana: Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest

Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest

The Beaverhead-Deerlodge forest covers 3.35 million acres of land within eight counties in Montana.

©Emily Kerns/

The largest forest in Montana is the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, which covers 3.35 million acres of land within eight counties in Montana. The forest lies in Granite, Deer Lodge, Jefferson, Madison, Silver Bow, Powell, Gallatin, and Beaverhead counties.

The Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest consisted of two separate regions that former President Theodore Roosevelt established in 1908. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service proclaimed it as one forest in 1996.

If you want to see nature, enjoy the scenery, hike, camp, fish, or hunt, the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest is a special place!

Where Is Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest Located on a Map?

Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest is in the southwest of Montana, with the nearest city being Butte, the county seat of Silver Bow County. The forestry headquarters are in Dillon, 63 miles north of the Idaho border. Roads that provide access to the forest’s areas include the Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway, Interstate 15, Interstate 90, Montana Highway 43, and Montana Highway 278.

What Animals Live In Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest?

A large bull North American elk standing in an open meadow

Approximately 346 terrestrial species inhabit the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest.

©Tony Campbell/

The Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest is composed of coniferous forests and grasslands. There are approximately 346 terrestrial species inhabiting the forest, including bears, wolves, wolverines, and other mammals, as well as birds and freshwater fish!

Do you wonder which wildlife you will encounter in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest? Let’s learn more about them and their habitats.


The Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest is for more than just hikers and hunters. Thanks to its diverse ecosystem, the forest also features many trails for bird-watching enthusiasts.

Here are several species of birds you can find in Beaverhead-Deerlodge national forest:

  • American peregrine falcon
  • Bald eagle
  • Belted kingfisher
  • Black-backed woodpecker
  • Blue-winged teal
  • Flammulated owl
  • Great gray owl
  • Hairy woodpecker
  • Northern goshawk
  • Pileated woodpecker
  • Three-Toed woodpecker
  • Warbling vireo
  • Willow flycatcher
  • Yellow-billed cuckoo.

Freshwater Fish

The Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest also offers several fishing trails for anglers to enjoy.

Here are several freshwater fishes you can find in the forest:

  • Bull trout (Dolly Varden)
  • Burbot trout
  • Cutthroat trout
  • Eastern brook trout
  • Golden trout
  • Grayling
  • Kokanee salmon
  • Lake trout
  • Loch Leven (brown trout)
  • Longnose sucker
  • Mountain whitefish
  • Rainbow trout
  • Rainbow/cutthroat trout (hybrid)
  • Westslope cutthroat trout
  • Yellowstone cutthroat trout.


American Marten

The American marten, also called pine marten, is a mammal from the Mustelidae family. It is characterized by a long and slender body, a bushy tail, and a triangular head. It can jump from one tree to another.

Pine martens are omnivores, but their diets change seasonally. They are opportunistic hunters and prey on voles, rabbits, or mice.

Black Bear

Black bears are among the many wildlife species to watch out for when hiking through the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. These omnivorous, medium-sized bears are native to North America. They live in heavily forested areas but sometimes appear in human communities to look for food. 

In fact, the USDA Forest Service proclaimed an ordinance for food storage in human campsites and communities within the Beaverhead-Deerlodge region. The ordinance urged developed campgrounds to have bear-resistant storage containers. The purpose of this restriction is to minimize human and bear conflicts that usually compromise their safety.


Elk are among the largest deer species in the Cervidae family. Male elks can weigh up to 1,096 lb (497 kg), while females can weigh up to 644 lb (292 kg). The North American elk group consists of several subspecies, such as Roosevelt’s elk, tule elk, and Rocky Mountain elk.


Fishers, also called Pekania pennanti, are carnivorous mammals native to North America. Fishers are sometimes called fisher cats because of similarities in size and appearance. However, they are not from the Felidae family. Fishers are closely related to weasels and can be found inhabiting the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. They are carnivores that primarily prey on hares and porcupines.

Gray Wolf

Wolves, called gray wolves, are large carnivorous canines native to Eurasia and North America. Wolves are social animals that are known to form packs. Their basic social unit consists of a mated pair and their offspring. Packs make hunting easier. However, it is common for lone wolves to wander alone temporarily, especially when trying to form their own pack.

Wolves prey mainly on herbivorous mammals and pursue the old, weak, and sick. They prefer large hoofed mammals like deer, elk, and bison. However, they are not fussy eaters and would settle on consuming small rodents, beavers, and even lizards if there is no better prey.


The term lynx refers to any of the four species in the Lynx genus in the cat family. Lynxes are carnivorous mammals that prey on other mammals, such as deer, hares, foxes, and sheep. They inhabit secluded high-altitude forests that are densely covered with tall grasses, trees, and shrubs.

There are four extant species of Lynxes: the Canada lynx, the Iberian lynx, the Eurasian lynx, and the bobcat. Canada lynx and bobcats are the lynx species native to North America.

Northern Water Shrew

The northern water shrew, also called the American water shrew, is a type of nocturnal shrew native to the United States, Canada, and Alaska mountain ranges. American water shrews are the smallest mammalian divers. They can grow about 5.1-6.7 inches long (13 to 17 cm) and weigh about 0.28-0.63 ounces (8 to 18 g).

Northern water shrews hunt insects and other aquatic animals by diving from rocks and other elevated banks.


Wolverines are solitary mammals that dwell in mountainous regions and dense forests. They are the largest terrestrial species of the Mustelidae family. 

Wolverines are predominantly scavengers and would feed on carrion. However, they gained a ferocious reputation because of their power. Wolverines can also hunt and prey on small to medium-sized mammals.

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About the Author

I hold seven years of professional experience in the content world, focusing on nature, and wildlife. Asides from writing, I enjoy surfing the internet and listening to music.

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